Cu and Zn Uptake Inhibition by PAHs as Primary Toxicity in Plants

  • Zarhelia Carlo-Rojas
  • Wen-Yee Lee
Conference paper


Studies of the interference of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) on the uptake of copper (Cu) and zinc (Zn) by alfalfa (Medicago sativa) were investigated. Alfalfa plants were treated with three PAH compounds individually at 50 mg·kg–1(soil dry weight) along with Zn and/or Cu. The concentrations of metals were 35 mg·kg–1(soil dry weight) for Zn and 100 mg·kg–1(soil dry weight) for Cu which levels were associated with the reported concentrations in soils in the El Paso area. Phenanthrene (Phen) and bezo(a)pyrene (BaP) with combination of Zn or/and Cu were found to reduce the size of alfalfa in 5 days of germination/seedling period. Significant decrease in size in alfalfa was 67–91% in 50 mg·kg–1BaP treatments, and 30–75% in 50 mg·kg–1Phen treatments. The uptake of Zn and Cu by alfalfa under the influence of Phen and BaP after 35 days of growth period showed distinctive difference. The Cu uptake was totally inhibited by the two PAHs, while the Zn uptake was inhibited by BaP but enhanced by Phen. Acethylanthracene, however, did not show any effect on the metal uptake. The very different impact of PAH compounds on metal uptake was an indication that there may be various uptake pathways and mechanism of the organics entering into roots.


Metal Uptake Acute Toxicity Test Metal Treatment Alfalfa Seed Alfalfa Seedling 



The authors gratefully acknowledge the support of HBCU/MI (Historically Black Colleges and Universities/Minority Institutions) under the grant DE-FC0202EW15254, CERM (Center for Environmental Resource Management) at UTEP, CONACYT (Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnologia), and SRI (Secretaria de Relaciones Internacionales), Mexico.


  1. Archanvault, D.J., J.J. Slaski, and X. Li. 2004. “A rapid, sensitive, seedling-based bioassay for determination of toxicity of solid and liquid substrates and plant tolerance”. Soil and Sediment Contamination 13:53–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Barhoumi, R., Y. Mouneimne, K.S. Ramos, S.H. Safe, T.D. Phillips, V.E. Centonze, C. Ainley, M.S. Gupta, and R.C. Burghardt. 2000. “Analysis of Benzo[a]pyrene Partitioning and Cellular Homeostasis in a Rat Liver Cell Line”. Toxicological Sciences 53:264–270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Efroymson, R.A., M.E. Will, E.W. Suter II, and A.C. Wooten. 1997. Toxicological Benchmarks for Screening Contaminants of Potential Concern for Effects on Terrestrial Plants: 1997 Revision. Technical memorandum, US DOE. ES/ER/TM-85/R3, Tennessee.Google Scholar
  4. OECD. 2003. Guideline for testing chemicals, Guideline 208. Terrestrial plant test: Seedling emergence and seedling growth test. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Paris.Google Scholar
  5. Shen, G., Y. Lu, and J. Hong. 2006. “Combined effect of heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons on urease activity in soil”. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety 63(3): 474–480. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Song, Y.F., P. Gong, Q.X. Zhou, and T.H. Sun. 2005. “Phytotoxicity assessment of phenanthrene, pyrene and their mixtures by a soil-based seedling emergence test”. Journal of Environmental Science 17(4):580–583.Google Scholar
  7. UNEP-ILO-WHO. 1998. Selected non-heterocyclic policyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Environmental health criteria 202. United Nations Environmental Program-International Labour Organisation, Genova.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zarhelia Carlo-Rojas
    • 1
  • Wen-Yee Lee
    • 1
  1. 1.Environmental Science and Engineering PhD (ESE) Program UTEPEl PasoUSA

Personalised recommendations